We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.
Indigenous Watchdog Status Update
|Current Status||Oct. 4, 2021||IN PROGRESS|
|Previous Status||Sept. 5, 2021||IN PROGRESS|
Why “In Progress”?
On August 11, 2021, the federal government committed $321M in new funding for Indigenous communities and appointing a special interlocutor to propose law and policy changes to better responds to the findings of unmarked graves at former residential school sites:
- $83M added to the existing $27M program to fund searches of burial sites and commemorate the children who died at residential schools
- $107M for programs to support healing from intergenerational trauma
- $100M over two years to help Indigenous communities manage residential school buildings. To access this support, as well as support for the location, commemoration and memorialization of remains, communities can apply through the Residential Schools Missing Children – Community Support Funding Program.
- $9.6 million over three years in addition to the $13.4 million over five years already announced in Budget 2021 to ensure that the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is never forgotten. The funds will support initiatives that commemorate the history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, including events and activities marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation which will be observed for the first time this year on September 30, 2021
June 6, 2021: Toronto Star – The Missionary of Oblates of Mary Immaculate “says it will disclose all historical documents in its possession… They operated 48 schools in Canada, including the Marieval IRS and the Kamloops IRS…In the statement, the Oblates said the work is not complete because of complications with provincial and national privacy laws. The federal government released $27M in unused funding from a $33.8M budget allocations for Calls to Action # 72 and 73 in Budget 2019 to assist communities in the search for additional graves. There are no specifics identifying what the government is doing, with whom, by when, with what budget and with what expected – and realistic – outcomes
Stakeholder Commitments to Preserving Residential School Cemeteries
British Columbia – 18 schools
Kamloops IRS – 200 unmarked graves
May 28, 2021– Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation – National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) and the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) at UBC – NCTR and IRSHDC re calling on the federal government to work in collaboration with residential school Survivors and Indigenous governments to establish a national framework for investigation and protection of burial sites, consistent with the rights, laws, jurisdiction and protocols of the affected Nations.
St. Eugene’s IRS – 182 unmarked graves
June 20, 2021 – St. Eugene’s IRS operated from 1890 to 1970 with children from member bands of Ktunaxa nation, and neighbouring First Nation communities”. The community of Aq’am conducted a search of the schoolgrounds using ground-penetrating radar in 2020 and they are still in the early stages of interpreting the reports from those searches
Kuper Island IRS – 160+ unmarked graves
July 13, 2021 – Kuper Island School on Penelakut Island was operated by the Catholic Church until 1969. Indigenous children from up and down the B.C. coast were sent there, and its remote locations earned it the nickname of “Canada’s Alcatraz”. Archaeological research there began in 2014 as part of the TRC’s work on missing children. After the TRC reports were completed, a team at the University of British Columbia continued the work of collecting records, interviewing people who live in the village and searching the grounds of the former school using ground-penetrating radar.
St. Paul’s IRS – 60+ unmarked graves
Aug. 10, 2021 – the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) announce an Indigenous-led initiative, on behalf of its people and in partnership with its relatives the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, to find answers about the children who attended the former St. Paul’s Indian Residential School (1899-1959) but never made it home. According to public records, 12 unidentified students died while attending St. Paul’s between 1904 and 1913. The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw’s goal with the investigation of the former residential school site, located within Squamish unceded territory, is to find the location of each of these children and bring them home to rest.
July 20, 2021 – B.C. residential school response fund is available to support activities on the sites of former Indian Residential Schools and Indian Hospitals. Up to $475,000 is available for each site. Funding is available for:
- Mental health and wellness and clinical supports
- Traditional wellness and cultural supports
- Archival research
- Engagement with Elders, knowledge-keepers, survivors, intergenerational survivors and families
- Engagement with First Nations, local governments and landowners
- Procurement of technical expertise
- Communication supports
- Training and capacity development
- Planning and project management supports
- Policy development
Aug. 5, 2021 – First Nations with former Indian Residential School and Indian Hospital sites in or near their communities can now access the B.C. residential school response fund with the added support of two newly appointed First Nations liaisons. The B.C. government has appointed Charlene Belleau (herself a residential school survivor) and Lydia Hwitsum as First Nations liaisons, respected leaders who bring the experience, relationships and expertise needed to advance this critical work. he liaisons will support caretaker communities to connect with provincial and federal agencies, provide advice to the provincial government on former residential school and hospital sites, and serve as a crucial communications link between communities and the provincial government.
Alberta – 25 schools
Red Deer Indian Industrial School
Oct. 13, 2019 – Founded in 1892, considered one of the most atrocious examples of the suffering, abuse and neglect rampant in the Canada’s residential school system, the school operated until 1918. The school was plagued by widespread disease, a defective sanitation system that led to further contamination and illness, overcrowding and one of the highest mortality rates of any such school in Canada. About 350 children attended the school. (Toronto Star – Edmonton)
|Confirmed Graves||Estimated Graves|
|20||50 – 70|
Grouard Indian Residential School
Aug. 17, 2021: Kapawe’no First Nation welcomed a team from the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology at the University of Alberta to assess the site of the Grouard Residential School Aug. 10 to 12. Located nearly 400 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, the school operated from 1894 to 1957. By 1949, Métis students accounted for half of the student body in residence. The First Nation is working with the Grouard community, other Indigenous leaders at Treaty 8 and the Métis Nation of Alberta, as well as the Grouard Catholic Church and archbishop.
July 27, 2020 – A UCalgary researcher is working with a number of partners across Canada to develop a strategy for digitally archiving the physical structures of the few remaining residential schools in Alberta. Two former provincial residential schools — Old Sun Community College and University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills — will be digitally captured by Blackfoot and Cree students working with University of Calgary researchers in archaeology (Dawson), computer science (Dr. Faramarz Samavati, PhD) and geomatics engineering (Dr. Derek Lichti, PhD).
June 23 2021 – Alberta’s government is providing $8 million to fund the Alberta Residential Schools Community Research Grant that is open to Indigenous communities and groups that will lead the research into undocumented deaths and burials in residential schools. Grant funding will be available to Indigenous communities and organizations for the following purposes:
- Community-driven research, including gathering oral histories and knowledge of elders (as appropriate).
- Community-led engagement to determine how communities wish to proceed with a burial site.
- Use of ground-penetrating radar and other technologies to explore potential unmarked burial sites.
- Partnering with experts experienced in locating human burials.
- Maintenance and commemorative work, such as installation or restoration of grave markers, placement of memorials or commemoration events.
Individual applications can receive up to a maximum of $150,000. Applications are now available and will be accepted until Jan. 15, 2022.
Saskatchewan – 18 schools
Regina Indian Industrial School (RIIS)
July 26, 2017 – (RIIS) Cemetery has been designated a Provincial Heritage Property. The cemetery grounds contain the graves of approximately 35 children from First Nations and Métis communities in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba who died while attending the school.
Aug. 14, 2018 – A monument to commemorate and honour those who died while attending the Regina Indian Industrial School (RIIS) over 100 years ago was unveiled today. “This plaque is a permanent feature to commemorate the children who passed while attending the school, and acknowledges the impact residential schools had on Saskatchewan peoples and communities.”
Muskowekwan Residential School
Feb. 5, 2019: University of Alberta – A Métis archeologist at the University of Alberta working with the Muskowekwan First Nation in Saskatchewan may have discovered graves of missing children from the nearby residential school that closed in 1997. “In the records there were 35 children who were unaccounted for, that disappear off the records, and nobody quite knows what happened,” said Kisha Supernant. operated from 1889 to 1997 and stands on the land of the Muskowekwan First Nation, which is trying to save the deteriorating building—one of the last standing residential school buildings in Western Canada—to turn it into a museum.
May 31, 2021: Saskatoon Star Phoenix – The Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations and the province issued a joint statement calling on the federal government “to immediately commence research on undocumented deaths and burials in residential schools in Saskatchewan, including radar ground search at residential school sites.” Initial sites identified to be investigated by radar ground search are:
- Onion Lake
- St. Anthony’s IRS
- Beauval IRS
- Guy Hill IRS
- Lebret IRS
- Sturgeon Landing IRS
With an estimated 20 federal residential schools operated in Saskatchewan, meaningful reconciliation in our province must include research into the estimated hundreds of children that did not return home after attending these institutions, including radar ground search,” Premier Scott Moe said.
Manitoba – 14 schools
Brandon Indian Residential School
Aug. 28, 2018 – Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs wants the city of Brandon to protect the unmarked graves that are now part of a RV campsite.
June 10, 2021: APTN – The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba is partnered with the University of Windsor, Simon Fraser University (SFU) and Brandon University for the Brandon Residential Schools Cemeteries Project. “While employing archeological survey techniques, geophysical technologies, survival recounts and archival documents, our investigation has identified 104 potential graves in all three cemeteries, and that only 78 are accountable through cemetery and burial records,” she said.
Fort Alexander IRS
July 28, 2021: Toronto Star – RCMP have been conducting a “large-scale, years long criminal investigation into sexual abuse allegations” beginning in 2010. The school operated from 1905 until 1970 under the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who also ran all the other residential schools where unmarked graves were discovered.
Ontario – 17 schools
June 1, 2021: Toronto Star – One of the oldest residential schools opened in 1829 and was operated by the Anglican Church before being taken over by the federal government in 1885. History of escapes from the school are well documented, as are stories of physical and sexual abuse and of malnutrition. The latter complaint earned the school the nickname “the Mush Hole”
July 19, 2021 – The Government of Canada is investing over $7.6 million in the “Save the Evidence” project through the Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada plan. The Government of Ontario is providing more than $1.8 million, while the Woodland Cultural Centre is contributing $378,437. The work will allow the Woodland Cultural Centre to restore the Mohawk Institute Residential School site, allowing it to open as a national historical cultural site for public education and healing.
Aug. 16, 2021 – Mohawk Institute is creating a Survivors’ Secretariat to commence a death/criminal investigation. The Mandate of the Survivors’ Secretariat includes coordinating death investigation processes and protocols, conducting Statement Gathering, document collection and historical research, supporting commemoration initiatives, and liaising with First Nations, provincial, and federal governments.
The Survivors’ Secretariat is currently working to put in place an Indigenous Human Rights Monitor and a Cultural Monitor to oversee the work of the Joint Police Task Force. Survivors and community members have been clear, the Joint Police Task Force must be Survivor-led. These two monitoring roles, once in place, are essential to ensuring that Indigenous legal principles, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and cultural protocols are respected.
June 21, 2021: Toronto Star – Ontario government “has committed $10M over the next three years on the ‘identification, investigation, protection and commemoration’ of residential school burial sites across the province…The TRC working group on missing children and unmarked burials identified 12 residential school burial sites ‘with varying degrees of certainty’ before completing their work in 2015. The TRC “had determined that at least 3,200 children died in residential schools, including 426 in Ontario. In nearly a third of the deaths, the name of the child wasn’t recorded; nearly half did not list a cause of death. (Since 2015 the National Centre for truth and reconciliation ha added 980 names to its memorial register, and its work is ongoing.
- Fort Albany
- Fort Francis
- Fort William
- Moose Factory
- Sault Ste. Marie (2)
- Spanish (2)
New Brunswick – 12 Indian Day Schools
Aug. 30, 2021: Toronto Star – After committing to investigate the history of New Brunswick’s infamous day schools for Indigenous children, the New Brunswick government is now calling on the province’s museum, archives and “other institutions” to make records of the schools available to First Nations communities. The records include those on the little-known Sussex Vale Indian Day School, also called the Sussex Vale Indian Academy, which was located in present-day Sussex for approximately four decades beginning in 1787. Experts consider the school to be a precursor to the residential school system in Canada. The New Brunswick Museum intends to digitize all the records on the Sussex day school.
Newfoundland and Labrador – 5 schools
Newfoundland and Labrador was excluded from Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement but reached a $50M settlement with the Government of Canada on May 11, 2016. See Call to Action # 29.
June 24, 2021: VOCM – Premier Andrew Furey says government will support whatever plan Indigenous leaders come up with regarding unmarked burial sites in the province. Furey says once the leaders come to a consensus on the approach they want to take, government will be there to support it, whether it’s financial, emotional, or in the form of infrastructure.
Jan. 14, 2021 – CBC – Supreme Court of Canada rejected the appeal from the Archdiocese of St. John’s ruling that “The Archdiocese of St. John’s is liable for the abuse at Mount Cashel Orphanage in the 1950s… The case has been snaking its way through the courts for 21 years. The church is now liable to pay the outstanding bills left behind by the Christian Brothers of Ireland when the organization went bankrupt from settling child abuse lawsuits in 2012.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island had no Indian Residential Schools
Québec – 12 schools
Jun 1, 2021: Montreal Gazette – Quebec Premier François Legault said that while residential schools fall under federal jurisdiction, the province is ready to participate in eventual searches of the sites. Quebec’s Indigenous affairs minister said Monday that the province is open to searching the grounds of former residential schools for graves, if survivors and their families are in favour.
Nova Scotia – 1 school
Northwest Territories – 14 schools
June 6, 2021: CBC – The territorial government says it is willing to work with Indigenous leaders to get to the truth about what may lie underground in the territory’s many former residential school locations. In the Northwest Territories there were 14 residential schools, run by church or state. In some communities, work has already been done to understand the terrible legacy left behind.
Sacred Heart Residential School
July 12, 2021: APTN – Fort Providence used ground-penetrating radar in ’90s to locate cemetery containing 300 bodies, of which 161 were kids who attended Sacred Heart Residential School in Zhahti Kue, also known as Fort Providence, N.W.T.
Yukon – 6 schools
Nunavut – 14 schools
Sir Joseph Bernier School
May 31, 2021: Nunatsiaq News – There have been calls to extradite one former residential staff member who is accused of abusing Inuit children during his time in Nunavut. Father Johannes Rivoire, now 90, was known to have worked in Chesterfield Inlet, the site of the infamous Sir Joseph Bernier School. The crimes he is accused of date back to the 1960s.
Disbursements of Federal Governments Funding to Find Unmarked Graves
Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations = $4.88M (16 Indian Residential Schools)
Research, knowledge gathering and the initial ceremonies related to the burial sites of children who never returned from residential schools to their Indigenous communities. The funding will also help communities gather the information necessary to guide appropriate ground penetrating radar work.
Official Federal Government Response: “Modified” on June 11, 2021 – but nothing changed from Sept, 5, 2019
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada has begun discussions with various partners, internal and external to the federal government, towards collaborating on an engagement strategy to gain a better understanding of the range of Indigenous family and community needs and interests and about how best to move forward in a comprehensive manner on all of the calls to actions regarding children who died or went missing while attending Indian residential schools (Calls to Action 72 to 76).